As the end of Donald Trump’s presidency draws nigh, thousands of Chinese netizens have commented and interacted with a Global Times post that asked them to describe the controversial outgoing US president and his contentious tenure in a few key words or phrases, with the overwhelming consensus one of negativity and mockery toward the 45th president of the US.
Experts and journalists reached by the Global Times also gave their thoughts on the eve of the inauguration of Trump’s successor, president-elect Joe Biden.While they expect a much steadier administration, many admitted that it would not be as entertaining or interesting. Others warned that the effects of Trumpism will cast a shadow as Biden attempts to rebuild shattered US relations and heal a nation in turmoil.
The most common words and phrases mentioned under the Global Times posts include destruction, dishonest, selfish, populism, McCarthyism, unilateralism, protectionism, anti-globalization, untrustworthy, messy, crazy, arrogant, uncertainty, low-credit, funny, laughable, gravedigger of US hegemony, and enemy to pro-US sycophants. As of press time, the online quiz has received about 700 comments and 3,000 likes on Sina Weibo.
Chinese experts said it is unlikely many will make many compliments or positive comments regarding Trump, whether in China or in the US, because the changes that he has made to the US, China-US relations and international relations have been largely negative and destructive, and his governance has caused unprecedented and irreversible consequences.
But some journalists of international politics and China-US ties have mixed feelings about him because they no longer need to stare at his Twitter feed 24/7 in case of shocking tweet storms. The flip side is that Chinese journalists have lost a treasury and a comical window to observe US politics directly.
A web user said in a comment with more than 500 likes, “He just uncovered the dark side of ‘democracy’ in capitalist countries for us. So the sacred presidential election is actually full of fraud and cheating.” Another joked, “Why didn’t they let him be reelected? Then he can probably become the last president of the US.”
Chinese experts have summarized Trump’s legacies in the aspects of politics, economy and foreign affairs. He further divided American grass roots and establishment elites, failed to realize the promise of getting manufacturing industry back to the US from overseas, caused “post-traumatic stress disorder” to US-led alliances and made China-US ties worsen to the brink of a new cold war despite the administration launching no war, they said.
Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday that Trump represents a division of the US and a resurgence of McCarthyism regarding the international stage, especially toward China.
Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, summarized the Trump administration as one of “subversive destruction” in general and “fundamental regress” when it comes to China-US ties. “He has blocked the trend toward integration between China and the US, turning the certainties of both countries into uncertainty,” Li said.
Almost no one on social media remembered that at the beginning of Trump’s term, he had expressed a friendly stance toward China and its top leadership. He showed video clips of his granddaughter, Arabella Kushner, daughter of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, singing a Chinese song and reciting Chinese poems on diplomatic occasions, and he praised China’s assistance publicly on issues like mediating the US-North Korea tension.
The images that have most stuck in the minds of Chinese people are when he hyped Sinophobia and racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. He sought to assign blame and stigmatize China on almost everything to cover his failed governance, and he launched a trade war to the detriment of not only Chinese firms but also American interests. The US under his governance continues to become more hostile toward Chinese nationals and immigrants, more unequal between the black and the white and the rich and the poor, more incapable of protecting its own people from the coronavirus epidemic, and more divided and violent, even though the election is a done deal, said Chinese analysts.
“During his presidency, China-US ties reached the lowest point in [modern] history. Any worse situation would be unimaginable, so this could be good news for the future, because no matter what changes Biden is to make, they will at least be better than Trump’s policies,” Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“Although Trump has wrought some damage on China, the losses he inflicted on the US are much greater. Trump has brought unprecedented destruction to the legal legitimacy and moral legitimacy of the US. The huge damage to the credibility of the country will seriously undermine the US’s status as a leader of the Western world,” Lü noted.
The US is becoming increasingly unreliable and uncertain, and this is not an asset of a supposed leader of the world, Lü said. The Biden administration will inherit the fallout as well, because even though Trump’s rules and policies will be overturned, if Trumpism returns, everything will revert. This uncertainty will make many countries, even loyal US allies, distance their own interests from the US.
During the Trump presidency, especially amid the pandemic, the world has seen grievous levels of individualism and brusque arrogance among the US. Trump’s destruction of US-led alliances, of the system of global governance and of the system of capitalism, would be catastrophic. He has not only ruined the reputation of the US, but that of the whole Western world, as well as capitalism, Wang noted.
Although US allies are saying “welcome back” to the US, on concrete issues like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Iran nuclear deal, European countries and Japan are exercising caution. They decided to reach historic agreements on trade and investment with China as soon as possible despite the Biden team asking them to wait, and the China-EU investment agreement is evidence of this, Chinese analysts said.
The impact of Trumpism, which represents populism, anti-establishment, anti-elitism, and even encouraging overturning the election results with use of force, will be lingering and lasting long, Li said, noting that Trump’s stepping down was a setback for the far right, but that Trumpism still has chance to rise in both the US and Europe again. Problems like immigration, ethnic and sectarian conflicts, and uneven development during globalization remain unresolved, he said.
Some Chinese netizens are still trying to have some fun on the last full day of Trump’s presidency. Comments under the Global Times’ online quiz include phrases describing Trump as “Comrade Jianguo” and “undercover agent of the Party.” Jianguo literally means “build the country,” but in this case, they mock that Trump is doing his best to build up China to the detriment of the US.
These words refer to a popular meme on Chinese social media that says Trump is “an agent sent by China to win the election in 2016 and disrupt the US to make it as messy as possible, so China can distract US suppression against China and win the competition easily.”
One of the comments with more than 1,200 likes under the Global Times’ quiz mocked that “His loyalty will be remembered in the East, as he brought disaster to the West.”
This meme has become even more popular after the January 6 Capitol riots. Some netizens said they are reluctant to bid Trump farewell, hoping he will remain in the White House to wreak more trouble on the US and bring more advantages to China. Some Chinese web users suggested Trump should open an account on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like popular social media platform, after he leaves office, since all US social media platforms have blocked him.
“If American media, officials or people learn about this meme, they should not be surprised and angry, as this is the sense of humor of Chinese people to ease the pressure and anger against the US amid the unprecedented hostility from the Trump administration. The majority of us don’t like Trumpism at all, and we hope the Biden administration can fix [bilateral] ties,” said a Beijing-based journalist on China-US relations who asked for anonymity.
In a December 2020 survey conducted by the Global Times, 31.7 percent said they believe Biden will bring certain opportunities to ease China-US tensions, with 28.5 percent pessimistic about the new US administration, and 39.8 percent found the situation unclear.
Trump was thanked by many web users as he made many Chinese people become more informed on US politics. They said that Trump is “the enemy” to Chinese “public intellectuals” and sycophants who frequently flatter, with strong bias, the US and trumpet Western democracy to stigmatize the socialist political system of China.
Trump caused the fairy tales about US democracy created by Chinese “public intellectuals” to collapse, because his poor handling of the pandemic, his dishonest and anti-intellectual statements, faithless behavior on the international arena, and the riots incited by him to challenge the election made the puffery of US democracy increasingly unconvincing, and in comparison, more Chinese feel confident on China’s path of socialism.
Li Xiang, editor-in-chief of the Wiews, a Beijing-based online media outlet, said “emotionally, I am a little bit reluctant to bid farewell to him, because we need a mighty internet celebrity like him to make the political news more popular and entertaining, but rationally, I hope he and his sidekicks like [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo will go away as soon as possible, because the world doesn’t need liars to be celebrities.”